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Visit Jura, France
If you enjoyed our Alsace Road Trip, you are going to love touring the Jura, France, by car. The Jura is a department of Bourgogne-Franche-Comté in eastern France, named after the Jura Mountains. This is an incredible region of amazing nature and picturesque villages so if you love nature and outdoor activities you are going to find many cool things to do in Jura, France.
The Jura is not well known by the foreign tourists (yet!) so it does not see the crowds of Alsace. If you are looking for the perfect weekend getaway from Paris and far from the crowds, the Jura is the place to go!
Roadtrip Jura – Overview
If you are looking for pretty villages, gorgeous nature, and scenic drives in France, consider this road trip in the Jura, one of the best road trips in France.
For this Jura road trip, we recommend the shoulder seasons (spring and fall). The colors are wonderful, the waterfalls are working in full power and you avoid the crowds. We don’t recommend doing this road trip in winter: the Jura is the coldest region of France plus most of the sites described above are closed during wintertime. Here’s an overview of our roadtrip Jura, France:
- Start: Paris
- Finish: Dole
- Duration: 4 days
- Suggested Route: Paris – Baume-les-Messieurs – Château-Chalon – Dole
- Total distance: 409 km, 6 hour-drive in total
- Regions covered: Bourgogne-Franche-Comté
- Best for: landscapes, small towns, hiking
Road Trip Through the Jura France – Map & Itinerary
The Region of the Lakes and Waterfalls
We did this road trip from Paris through the Jura region in October, during the shoulder season. The Jura is a big department and our time was limited so so we decided to concentrate our explorations on the Region of the Lakes and Waterfalls. During the previous days to our trip, it was raining a lot so when we arrived at the Jura we found nature as its best with wonderful fall colors, powerful waterfalls, and 0 crowds. Follow us to explore this wonderful region in the east of France, here’s the list of the best things to do in Jura France.
A Bit of Geology . . .
The Jura is a land so original and specific from a geologic point of view that it gave rise to the name “Jurassic” by eminent scientists of the 19th century. Jurassic means the geological period of formation of limestone and marine rocks.
The geological history of the Jura began more than 200 million years ago, and it continues today! The singularity of the landscapes reveals the incredible richness of the past times: mountains, blind valleys, plains, waterfalls, are the witnesses of this (geological) tumultuous past.
During much of the secondary era (Triassic, Jurassic, and early Cretaceous times) the Jura was a shallow sea dotted with islands (carbonated platforms), bordering the Thetys Ocean, which occupied the space of the current Alps. Its margins were inhabited by the giant reptiles of the time: the dinosaurs! Traces of their crossings are still visible on the sites of Loulle or Coisia.
DAY 1 | Paris to Baume-les-Messieurs
The hardest part of this first day is to leave Paris, the traffic in the city is so horrible! If like us you are starting this road trip from Paris, we recommend leaving Paris very early in the morning to avoid traffic jams. The drive from Paris east to Baume-Les-Messieurs is 4 hours (410km) but the time to reach Baume-les-Messieurs is definitely longer if you are stuck in the Parisian traffic.
The first stop of this road trip is Baume-les-Messieurs. This is a picturesque village, one of the few Jura villages with the label “most beautiful village of France”, and you are going to love it.
Baume-Les-Messieurs is a commune located in a reculée (steephead or blind valley). The reculée is a typical formation of the Jura geology of which the valley of Baume-Les-Messieurs is a superb example.
Formerly, a sea named Tethys covered the Jura. For millions of years, marine sediments lined the seabed to form strata of sedimentary rock, the strata that would later become the Jura Plateau. Rain, snow, infiltrated the faults of this limestone creating a network of underground rivers and caves. This “karstic network” is at the origin of the collapse of the plateau, forming the landscape that we can see today.
Baume-les-Messieurs is beautiful, charming and even if you are done with it in a couple of hours it is the perfect introduction to a Jura trip. Baume’s main sight is the Imperial Benedictine Abbey, founded in the 8th century. It is from this abbey that in 909 Abbot Bernon and a few monks left to found Cluny.
During the visit, one can see the evolution of the abbey from an architectural point of view. The existing buildings and the three courtyards were built between the 9th to 18th century.
From April 1st to September 30 the abbey organizes guided visits (45 mn). Unfortunately, at this time of the year, it is only possible to explore the church and the courtyards without guide.
La Cascade des Tufs
After a picnic in a nice corner of Baume, we head to the Cascade des Tufs located at a couple of kilometers south of Baume. There is a car park right in front of the waterfall but the landscape is so amazing and the fall colors so lovely that we prefer to reach it on foot.
To do this, there is a signposted trail from Baume to the waterfall that goes through the forest. Because the soil is a bit wet and muddy from the past rains we prefer to follow the road.
Cascade des Tufs is one of the most beautiful waterfalls of Jura. This waterfall is named after its tufa deposits, an important habitat for plants, algae, and mosses which are trapped and coated with limestone creating a petrifying wall. Because of the past rains, we find the waterfall in all its splendor.
A little path takes us to the top of the waterfall for another beautiful perspective.
Accommodation in Baume is scarce and expensive so for the first night we book a hotel in Doucier.
We chose the hotel Le Comtois mainly for its location, close to where we want to hike the following day. In addition, its restaurant has excellent reviews so it is a great opportunity to get a taste of the local cuisine. We are not disappointed: the dinner, the Jura wine, and the cheese – all homemade or produced around the corner – are delicious! Definitely, this is a great way to finish our first day in the Jura!
DAY 2 | Le Belvédère des 4 Lacs
One of the main highlights of any trip to the Jura is the hike to the Belvédère des 4 lacs and Pic de l’Aigle. The Belvédère des 4 Lacs is probably the best viewpoint of the Jura department so you cannot miss it!
We decide to do the round hike (12 Km) starting from La Fromagerie, in the village of Les Frasnois, where we park the car. The hike is easy and it takes us 4 hours in total, with a picnic break and many stops to take pictures and admire the views.
The first stop of the hike is the Belvédère des 3 Lacs. From this Belvédère the views over Lac Ilay with its island (a former priory), Lac Grand Maclu, and Lac Petit Maclu are very impressive. Just behind, some more steps take us to the summit of Pic de l’Aigle, with its orientation table. From there, it is possible to see the Jura Mountains and the Mont Blanc on a clear day.
From this point, a path took us to the Belvédère des 4 Lacs for more fantastic views. From this belvédère, we could also see Lac Narlay, which is a little bit further.
After the picnic, we walk down to the foot of the lakes. This part of the trail is steep so I am happy to have my trekking poles.
After walking a few meters along the D75 (there’s a pedestrian /bikes path) we take the trail that borders the lakes back to the Fromagerie. This is a beautiful stroll and it is great to see the lakes also from this point of view. This part of the path seems to be quite popular among the locals to walk the dogs or to enjoy some fresh air.
If you don’t feel sporty, it is also possible to access the Belvédère des 4 Lacs by car: there is a car park at the village of Chaux du Dombief and from there its just a 5-minute walk!
Les Cascades du Hérisson
La Fromagerie is also the starting point of Les Cascades du Hérisson, a beautiful trail of 31 falls and waterfalls. This is a 4 km hike (one way), with a slope of 255m.
Most of the time the trail is on the shade – wet and slippery – so be sure to wear good walking shoes!
Les Cascades du Hérisson is also accessible from the lower part, through La Maison des Cascades (main entrance to the site, information point, and shop). However, the car park at Maison des Cascades is charged, at least during the high season, while the car park at the Fromagerie is always free.
After the hikes, we drive to Château-Chalon, another of the Jura villages with the label “most beautiful village of France”, where we have a hotel reservation at Les Relais des Abbesses. This is a beautiful, historical property in the heart of the village. It has a terrasse with magnificent views over the Jurassic plateau, perfect for a sunset drink.
DAY 3 | Château-Chalon
Château-Chalon is a picturesque village perched on the edge of a cliff, watching for centuries over the entrance to its neighboring blind valleys.
It is early in the morning and the village still sleeps so before visiting it and we decide to explore the surrounding countryside. We drive alone through the vineyards, especially beautiful with the fall colors.
Apart from its spectacular setting, Château-Chalon’s abbey and its ancient buildings are very charming. In addition to the “most beautiful villages of France” label, Château-Chalon is one of Franche-Comté’s “characterful villages” so it would be a pity to miss it if you are around.
Château-Chalon’s vineyards produce Vin Jaune, also known as the yellow gold of the Jura. This is a dry Jura wine with complex walnut and honey aromas. It is made exclusively from savagnin grapes and has the distinction of being preserved in 62 cl bottles.
At the end of a street, after crossing a yard, we find ourselves on the school benches … ! This is the School of the Past (l’École d’Autrefois), kept intact for the last 70 years and which can be visited as a museum.
In this school, you can try to write with the quill, read old books or write on the blackboard. We have some fun playing the teacher and the bad students with the other visitors, everybody finds immediately his role!
L’École d’Autrefois is one of the coolest things to do in Jura France. Click here for opening times and other info (website in French).
DAYS 3-4 | Dole and its Canals
We are going to spend the last day and a half of this Jura roadtrip in Dole, a picturesque city in the historical region of Franche-Comté. We book one night at Hotel de la Cloche, a charming property with an excellent location for exploring the city.
Dole was the capital of the County of Burgundy, which was independent of France until King Louis XIV annexed it to the crown in the 17th century. Dole is also known to be the birthplace of the famous scientist Louis Pasteur, and you still can visit the house-museum where he spent the first years of his life.
Today Dole is a picturesque city bordered by the Doubs river, a city of canals and an interesting architecture from the 16th century. Dole’s old center is a confusion of alleyways edged by Renaissance homes with turrets and courtyards.
Dole’s main sights include the Collégiale Notre-Dame, l’Hôtel-Dieu, or rue du Collège de l’Arc. But again, this is a place to forget the maps and get lost enjoying its streets and canals, full of surprises.
Dole has a good choice of restaurants but they all seem to be booked on Saturday nights. If during your day wanderings you find a restaurant that you like, book it on the spot.